Top 10 OSHA Violations from 2017 & Tips to Avoid Them

Including a Special Highlight on Fall Violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created in 1970 and has been working to assure safe and healthful working conditions for men and women ever since by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor and answers to the Secretary of Labor, who is a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States. The OSHA Act covers most private sector employers and their workers and in some cases public sector employers and workers through the states and in certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority.

OSHA recently published their top 10 most frequently cited violations of worksites. This list is meant to alert employers about commonly cited standards so they can take steps to find and fix recognized hazards addressed in these and other areas before OSHA shows up. Failing to comply with these standards means employers risk being fined seriously. The OSHA laws were undated in 2015. The maximum penalties, which had not been raised since 1990, were increased by 78%. This means that the top penalty for serious violations increased from $7,000 to $12,471. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations increased from $70,000 to $124,709. Not only that, but not complying with these standards ultimately puts employees at risk for injury, illness, and even death.

The Top 10 OSHA Violations for 2017 (& Tips to Avoid Them):

  1. Fall Protection- General Requirements (Standard 1926.501)

  2. Avoid-Them-small

    • Offer proper guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems for those involved in activities in heights over 6 feet and/or with unprotected sides or edges to prevent falling from slips.
    • Considering implementing a warning line system or safety monitoring system for those employees working in roofing on low-slope roofs for fall prevention and help.
    • Protect employees working or walking on surfaces that may fall through (including skylights) over 6 feet in height.
      Total Violations in 2017: 6,887

  3. Hazard Communication (Standard 1910.1200)

    • Create, implement, and maintain a written hazard communication program for your workplace.
    • Properly train and inform all employees on hazardous chemicals in their work area before they enter it.
    • Provide safety data sheets in the workplace for hazardous chemicals being utilized.
      Total Violations in 2017: 4,652
  4. Scaffolding (Standard 1926.451)

    • Protect any employee that is using scaffolding over 10 feet from falling to a lower level with proper restraints and/or equipment.
    • Offer a ladder or stairway system with non-slip adhesives or stair treads to provide direct access from one area of scaffold or structure to another.
    • Ensure platforms on scaffolding are fully planked or decked and employees are protected with a fall or guardrail system.
      Total Violations in 2017: 3,697
  5. Respiratory Protection (Standard 1910.134)

    • Employers should provide medical evaluation to determine employee’s ability to use the respirator.
    • Be sure to select NIOSH-certified respirators for your employee use.
    • Establish and implement a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures.
      Total Violations in 2017: 3,381
  6. Lockout/Tagout (Standard: 1910.147)

    • Develop, document, and utilize procedures for the control of potentially hazardous energy in your workplace.
    • Establish a program of energy control procedures, employee training, and periodic inspections before employees perform any servicing on a machine where unexpected energizing, startup or stored energy could occur and cause injury.
      Total Violations in 2017: 3,131
  7. Ladders (Standard 1926.1053)

  8. Avoid-Them-small

    • Do not allow your employees to use ladders for any other purpose for which they were designed to prevent slipping, falling, or other injury.
    • Only allow employees to use ladders on stable and level surfaces.
    • Ensure ladders are not defective and offer non-slip adhesive or stair treads to prevent slip and fall accidents.
      Total Violations in 2017: 2,567

  9. Powered Industrial Trucks (Standard: 1910.178)

    • Make sure your employees are trained and competent to operate powered industrial trucks safely.
    • Conduct an evaluation of each truck operator’s performance at least once every three years.
    • Examine all industrial trucks before placing them into service daily.
      Total Violations in 2017: 2,349
  10. Machine Guarding (Standard: 1910.212)

    • Offer one or more methods of machine guarding to protect your operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards like rotating parts, flying chips, or sparks.
    • If the machine is designed for a fixed location, ensure it is securely anchored to prevent walking or moving.
    • Ensure guards for the machine are affixed to the machine where possible and secured elsewhere.
      Total Violations in 2017: 2,109
  11. Fall Protection- Training Requirements (Standard 1926.503)

    *New addition from 2016 to Top 10

    • Provide training for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. This training should enable the employees to recognize the hazards of falling and train them in the procedures to follow in order to minimize these fall hazards in the workplace.
    • Ensure that each employee is being trained on fall protection by a competent person, as necessary.
    • Verify compliance with Fall Protection Standards via written certification of your employees training. This should include the date of the fall protection training, the signature of the trainer and employer signature.
      Total Violations in 2017: 1,724
  12. Electrical- Wiring Methods (Standard 1910.305)

    • Keep unused openings in cabinets, boxes, and fittings effectively closed.
    • Provide pull boxes, junction boxes, and fittings with covers identified for purpose.
    • Ensure outlet covers with holes are provided with bushings designed for the purpose or have smooth, well-rounded surfaces which the cords may bear.

      Total Violations in 2017: 1,530

Highlighting Fall Violations:

Slip and fall violations are addressed numerous times within the top 10 OSHA violations for 2017, including the addition of Fall Protection- Training Requirements (#9) to the list this year. It is imperative to protect workers from potential slips and falls because they are among the most common causes of serious work related injuries and deaths. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in the construction industry alone, 991 workers died on the job, with 38.7 percent of those fatalities resulting from falls which was the number one cause of death in the that industry.

What Can Employers Do To Reduce Falls?

Employers should ensure work places are set up to prevent employees from slipping and falling. This is especially true of areas with overheard platforms, elevated work stations or where holes are in the floors or walls. Employers should also pay special attention to areas that can become slippery or icy, as falling is a concern. OSHA also requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in long-shoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

To prevent employees from being injured from falls, OSHA states that employers must:

  • Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk (using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover).
  • Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
  • Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt) employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
  • Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.

OSHA also requires employers to:

  • Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
  • Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition.
  • Select and provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
  • Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand.

Protecting your company from OSHA violations and your workers from harm can come in many different forms; the list provided is simply a guide. The adoption of safe work zone practices, the provision of appropriate training, and the use of properly assessed equipment is a great place to start. When it comes to fall protection it is imperative to plan ahead to get the job done safely, provide the right equipment, and training everyone to use the equipment safely. All employees have the right to a safe workplace and the law recognizes this by requiring employers to provide safe and healthful workplace. If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or to reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage.

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